China’s Wechat, Weibo And Baidu Under Investigation
China says it is investigating its largest social media platforms—Weibo, WeChat and Baidu Tieba—for alleged violations of cyber security laws. The Cyberspace Administration said people had been using the three platforms to spread terror-related material, rumors and obscenities. The breaches “jeopardized national security,” the administration said. China’s authorities heavily censor the internet, routinely blocking content or search terms they consider sensitive. Weibo is a Twitter-like microblogging site, WeChat is an instant messaging mobile app and Baidu Tieba is a popular discussion forum. They are all reported to have hundreds of millions of active users. China’s Cyberspace Administration accused internet users of “spreading violence, terror, false rumors, pornography and other hazards to national security, public safety, social order” on the three platforms. Baidu expressed “regret” and said it would “actively co-operate with government departments” and “increase the intensity of auditing,”Reuters reported. There was no immediate comment from Tencent, which owns WeChat, or Weibo.
Xi Reforms May Be Making Their Mark As China’s Industrial Belt Starts To Benefit From Rising Prices
Wendy Wu, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
Longmay Mining Holding Group, a coal conglomerate owned by the Chinese province of Heilongjiang, attracted global attention in March 2016 when thousands of miners in a town close to the Russian border staged a protest about their unpaid wages. It was seen as a typical bloated, indebted and inefficient Chinese state firm struggling in an industry with excessive supply. The Heilongjiang government had to beg state banks not to cut off credit flows even though the firm had not made a profit for years. A visit by the South China Morning Post last year found widespread anger on the streets of coal mining towns amid talks of job cuts. A turnaround, however, is taking place. Longmay is expected to report a profit for 2017, the first since 2011, the China Business Journal reported, citing the National Development and Reform Commission.
Russia Touts “Plan” With China To Ease US-N. Korea Standoff
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned on Friday that a war between the US and North Korea would be disastrous, and said his country was proposing—in conjunction with China—a path to a peaceful resolution of the nuclear standoff. The cornerstone of his plan, however, is a call for the US military to call off long-scheduled joint exercises with South Korea, like the one set to begin in just a couple weeks. In exchange, the North would halt missile tests. China has floated this proposition before, after past North Korean missile launches. CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy says that China, in particular, would be happy to see the annual joint US-South Korean military exercises end. As Tracy notes, both the US and South Korea confirmed earlier Friday that the exercises were set to go on as scheduled at the end of August. In a statement to CBS News, Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said approximately 17,500 US service members would be participating in the exercise, an increase of about 3,000 from the number stationed on the Korean Peninsula. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin notes that the exercise is a “command and control exercise,” which means that it’s largely an exercise using computers as opposed to a field exercise. The US government has long rejected the terms of what the Chinese and Russians are proposing as a “suspension for suspension” deal.
North Korea’s Missile Success Is Linked To Ukrainian Plant, Investigators Say
William Broad and David Sanger, THE NEW YORK TIMES
North Korea’s success in testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears able to reach the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines probably from a Ukrainian factory with historical ties to Russia’s missile program, according to an expert analysis being published Monday and classified assessments by American intelligence agencies. The studies may solve the mystery of how North Korea began succeeding so suddenly after a string of fiery missile failures, some of which may have been caused by American sabotage of its supply chains and cyberattacks on its launches. After those failures, the North changed designs and suppliers in the past two years, according to a new study by Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Such a degree of aid to North Korea from afar would be notable because President Trump has singled out only China as the North’s main source of economic and technological support. He has never blamed Ukraine or Russia, though his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, made an oblique reference to both China and Russia as the nation’s “principal economic enablers” after the North’s most recent ICBM launch last month.
North Korea Recalls Key Ambassadors To Pyongyang Amid Missile Row
Narjas Zatat, THE INDEPENDENT
Several key North Korean ambassadors have been asked to return to the country’s capital Pyongyang, it has emerged. Among the top envoys recalled were Ji Jae-ryong, Ja Song-nam and Kim Hyong-ju—ambassadors to China, the UN and Russia—according to South Korean news agency Yonhap News. A South Korean government official said: “North Korea seems to be hosting what appears to be a meeting of foreign diplomatic missions.” The number of ambassadors involved is not known, but South Korea believes the gathering could be used to discuss further military provocation by North Korea. In a press meeting, the Ministry of Unification’s spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said: “North Korea held the 43rd ambassadors’ meeting in July 2015 and [the most recent meeting] seems to be in line with that.” Tensions between North Korea and the US have dramatically escalated after a missile test carried out by Kim Jong-un was met with a threat of “fire and fury” by Donald Trump.
Taiwan Says Chinese Aircraft Conduct More Drills Near Island
Chinese military aircraft conducted a third day of training near Taiwan on Monday after doing close flybys of the island over the weekend, Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense said. Two Chinese military transport aircraft flew through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, then took different courses before returning to base, the ministry said. China has been increasingly asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. It is also worried about Taiwan, which it claims as its own, but which is run by a government China fears is intent on independence. Taiwan’s military closely monitored the Chinese aircraft and the situation was under control, the ministry said. “Our military has monitored the movements of the Chinese aircraft from the beginning to the end and were prepared for any contingency based on our rules of engagement,” it said in a statement.
Powerful Venezuelan Lawmaker May Have Issued Death Order Against Rubio
Patricia Mazzei, THE MIAMI HERALD
One of Venezuela’s most powerful leaders may have put out an order to kill Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a fervent critic of the South American country’s government, according to intelligence obtained by the US last month. Though federal authorities couldn’t be sure at the time if the uncorroborated threat was real, they took it seriously enough that Rubio has been guarded by a security detail for several weeks in both Washington and Miami. Believed to be behind the order: Diosdado Cabello, the influential former military chief and lawmaker from the ruling socialist party who has publicly feuded with Rubio. At a July 19 Senate hearing, the same day he was first spotted with more security, Rubio repeated his line that Cabello—who has long been suspected by US authorities of drug trafficking—is “the Pablo Escobar of Venezuela.” A week ago on Twitter, Cabello dubbed the senator “Narco Rubio.” The death threat was outlined in a memo to several law enforcement agencies disseminated last month by the Department of Homeland Security. The memo revealed an “order to have Senator Rubio assassinated,” though it also warned that “no specific information regarding an assassination plot against Senator Rubio has been garnered thus far” and that the US had not been able to verify the threat.
Trump Pressuring Allies To Cut Back On North Korean Workers
Pete Kasperowicz, WASHINGTON EXAMINER
The Trump administration is asking US allies to cut back on the number of North Korean workers they allow in the country, in a bid to starve North Korea of money it uses to fund its weapons program. That includes Kuwait, which reportedly has not cut back on the North Korean workers allowed in that country, even though the Trump administration hinted that Kuwait may soon change that policy in light of US pressure. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Thursday confirmed that the US is asking countries to cut back on the North Korean workers they allow in. “A big part of our pressure campaign, as many of you know, has been saying to those countries—through a series of bilateral meetings that Secretary Tillerson here at the State Department has had with many of his counterparts—asking other nations to reduce the number of North Korean guest workers,” she said. “Those guest workers who are working in construction and other industries in countries around the world are getting that money, that money is going straight back to North Korea into its weapons program,” she added. “That money does not go to the North Korean individuals themselves.”
Congress Wants Answers About Diplomats’ Illnesses In Cuba Last Year
Susan Crabtree, WASHINGTON FREE BEACON
Key House and Senate Committees, as well as individual lawmakers, want to know why they were caught flat-footed by media reports of incidents in Cuba late last year that left a group of US diplomats ill and reportedly suffering from hearing loss attributed to covert sonic devices. The members have requested a classified State Department briefing, and one is scheduled for Monday for committee staffers only because members of Congress are on their August recess, according to a Congressional aide. The lawmakers want to know why the Trump administration has waited so long to publicly say anything about the incidents in Cuba, which the State Department has acknowledged first began at the end of last year, and why the Obama administration also remained silent about it. Trump in late May expelled two Cuban diplomats from the Cuban embassy in Washington in response to the incidents against the US diplomats in Havana. “The real question is what the Obama administration knew and why they didn’t do anything about it,” a congressional aide told the Washington Free Beacon. They specifically want to know what information Jeffrey DeLaurentis, President Barack Obama’s chief of mission in Cuba, knew about the incidents in questions and whether he and others in the administration tried to cover it up in an effort to protect Obama’s diplomatic détente with Cuba.
GOP Senators Ask Trump To Hold Off On Venezuelan Oil Sanctions
Sylvan Lane, THE HILL
A group of Republican senators are asking President Trump to hold off on hitting Venezuelan oil companies with sanctions, claiming the restrictions could hurt US oil refiners and drive Venezuela closer to US adversaries. Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Bill Cassidy (La.), Thad Cochran (Miss.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) warned Trump that refiners in their states that depend on Venezuelan oil could face major losses from sanctions against that country’s oil industry. The senators also expressed concerns that sanctions on Venezuelan oil could drive the South American country to forge closer ties with China and Russia. “We are concerned that unilateral sanctions could harm the US economy, impair the global competitiveness of our businesses, and raise costs for our consumers,” the senators wrote. “It is critical to consider the role that the US energy industry and refining sector play in our economic and national security interest.” The Trump administration has sanctioned dozens of Venezuelan government officials as President Nicolás Maduro attempts to consolidate power and crack down on the opposition. Hundreds of anti-Maduro protesters have been killed as he fights with the opposition-controlled legislature. The political violence has exacerbated the Venezuelan economic crisis.
How A Kidnapping In Berlin Could Bring Down Vietnam’s Free Trade Agreement With Europe
David Hutt, FORBES
A proposed free trade agreement between Vietnam and the European Union could be hanging in the balance after the German foreign ministry accused Vietnam’s secret service of kidnapping a Vietnamese businessman from the streets of Berlin late last month. Trinh Xuan Thanh, who is wanted by Vietnamese authorities for alleged financial crimes, was abducted in the heart of the German capital on July 23, the German government says, but Hanoi claims he voluntarily returned to Vietnam and turned himself in to the police. He later appeared on Vietnamese state-television to deliver a “confession,” which his lawyer called “forced.” Earlier this month, Germany’s foreign ministry said there are “no longer any serious doubts” that Vietnam’s secret service and embassy were involved in the abduction, and described it as an “unprecedented and blatant violation of German law and international law.” It also called on Hanoi to return Thanh to Germany, where he was applying for asylum. The German foreign minister later described the event as akin to “thriller films about the Cold War.” “Berlin should demand that the Vietnamese immediately release Thanh, and base any continued engagement between Germany and Vietnam on a successful resolution of the case,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.
Venezuela Recovers Some Weapons Stolen In Attack, Launches Foreign Manhunt
Alexandra Ulmer, REUTERS
The Venezuelan government has recovered some weapons stolen in the Aug. 6 attack on a military base, and a manhunt now includes arrest requests for alleged anti-government plotters hiding in Miami, the nation’s intelligence chief said on Sunday. In a dramatic escalation of Venezuela’s political crisis, a group of current and former military officials attacked a base near the city of Valencia after they called for a general uprising against socialist President Maduro. His government has called the incident a “terrorist attack” and accused the political opposition and the United States, Venezuela’s ideological foe, of helping those trying to unseat him. After a manhunt began, ringleader Juan Carlos Caguaripano, a former National Guard captain, was caught on Friday. The head of the SEBIN intelligence service said in a televised broadcast on Sunday that 17 other people had been detained, flashing their portraits on the screen.
Ousted Venezuelan Prosecutor Says She Fears For Her Life, Will Keep Fighting
Girish Gupta, REUTERS
Venezuela’s ousted chief prosecutor said on Thursday she fears for her life and is on the run, but will keep fighting for democracy and freedom in the country after being fired by a controversial new legislative superbody. Luisa Ortega, who broke with President Nicolás Maduro in late March and became a vocal critic of his unpopular leftist government, spoke to Reuters at a secret location in Caracas after being fired by the constituent assembly on Saturday. The pro-government Supreme Court has also said that a trial could begin against her but she has not formally been charged. Still, the 59-year-old said she remained in hiding, moving between safe houses at least once a day, because she feared being arbitrarily thrown in jail amid an increasing breakdown of due process under Maduro. “I do not know what dark intentions and dark plans they may have, not only to deprive me of my freedom, but also deprive me of my life,” said Ortega, sitting on a sofa in a safe house.
Venezuelan President’s Son Threatens To Seize White House With Rifles
Faith Karimi, CNN
Nicolás Maduro Guerra, the son of the Venezuelan President, is threatening to seize the White House with rifles if President Donald Trump sends the US military to his nation. The White House has condemned President Nicolás Maduro’s regime for human rights abuses. More than 120 people have died in anti-government protests since April. Last week, Trump said he would not rule out the possibility of a military intervention in Venezuela. President Maduro’s son responded to Trump on Saturday, but appeared confused on the location of the White House. “If the unlikely event of defiling the homeland came to pass, the rifles would arrive in New York, ” he told Venezuelan state media. “Mr. Trump, we would arrive and take the White House.”
This Young Violinist Inspired Venezuelans To Stand For Freedom. Now He’s Rotting In Prison.
Paul Coyer and Marjory Serrano, THE DAILY SIGNAL
One of the stories coming out of Venezuela that has simultaneously saddened and inspired has been that of Wuilly Arteaga, a talented young violinist who grew up in the poorest part of Valencia, Venezuela’s third largest city. Wuilly taught himself violin and won a place in one of Venezuela’s youth orchestras that are part of the country’s famous classical music program, “El Sistema,” despite having no formal training. Wuilly’s contribution during Venezuela’s ongoing crisis has been to play patriotic Venezuelan songs on his violin during the street protests against the authoritarian rule of President Nicolás Maduro and the Socialist Party of Venezuela. Wuilly is unassuming and soft-spoken, but his street performances have reflected an inner strength and determination that have inspired many and made him an international symbol of the Venezuelan people’s fight for freedom.